Over the years many publications have contained features about the hugely popular Phil Silvers Show. Here is a small selection of them for you to enjoy.
Collier's Weekly was an American magazine founded by Peter Fenelon Collier and published from 1888 to 1957. With the passage of decades, the title was shortened to Collier's.
In April 1888, Collier's Once a Week was launched as a magazine of "fiction, fact, sensation, wit, humor, news". By 1892, with a circulation climbing past the 250,000 mark, Collier's Once a Week was one of the largest selling magazines in the United States. The name was changed to Collier's Weekly: An Illustrated Journal in 1895. With an emphasis on news, the magazine became a leading exponent of the halftone news picture. By 1914, it was known as Collier's: The National Weekly. The magazine was sold in 1919 to the Crowell Publishing Company.
During World War II, with William L. Chanery as the editor, Collier's readership reached 2.5 million! Collier's had a circulation of 2,846,052 when Walter Davenport took over as editor in 1946. In the early 1950s, the magazine ran a groundbreaking series of articles about space flight, Man Will Conquer Space Soon! which prompted the general public to seriously consider the possibility of a trip to the moon. In 1951 an entire issue described the events and outcome of a hypothetical war between the United States and the Soviet Union, entitled Preview of the War We Do Not Want. Collier's changed from a weekly to a biweekly in August 1953.The magazine ceased publication with the issue dated January 4, 1957.
On May 11, 1956 the magazine published an article called, Backstage with Phil Silvers (a rollicking week with Bilko's bunch). This work was compiled by regular Collier's features writer, Michael Drury. For the sake of archive material, I felt that this excellent piece of work should not be consigned to the dustbin, but be shared with everyone, Worldwide........ to enjoy and cherish.
How is a top television show put together? It's a tough grind, but with a great comedian it's also a big frolic. Here's a day-to-day account of a typical week in the lives of the larcenous but lovable Sergeant Ernest Bilko and his zany bunch. Hi-ya-up!
Backstage with Phil Silvers By Michael Drury (Photographed by Marvin Koner)
MONDAY ... At 10:00 A.M. an alarm clock rang in the tower suite of a Park Avenue hotel and a bald-headed man named Phil Silvers rolled over in a double bed and shut it off. He picked up the phone and called room service, then reached for his spectacles. While he waited for breakfast he got out of bed, put a robe over his brown-and-white cotton pajamas, and padded around in his bare feet. He flipped on a small radio to listen to the news and thought about telephoning his friend song writer Sammy Cahn in Los Angeles, but abandoned the notion because it was 7:00 A.M. in California.
A waiter in a white coat wheeled in a breakfast of orange juice, a hot Danish pastry and coffee. Silvers sat down to eat it in his living room, with a clear view down the middle lane of the Queensborough Bridge out one window and the plumbline strip of Park Avenue out the other. There was nobody to talk to; Silvers lives alone.
He showered, shaved, dressed, examined his mail, made a dozen phone calls --- he likes phones and has three of them in his two-room suite. Then he went off to lunch at Lindy's Restaurant on Broadway with a Canadian newspaperman who wanted an interview. Promptly at three minutes to two Silvers left the restaurant and walked 50 feet north to a rehearsal studio.
At that studio and elsewhere during the next five days, Silvers would, by a dizzy and difficult process even he doesn't entirely understand, transform himself into a character known to 27,000,000 television viewers as Sergeant Ernest Bilko, a U.S. Army top kick with a taste for larceny and an irrepressible love for his fellow man. "I'm kind of a louse," Silvers once said, explaining Sergeant Bilko, "but I'm a lovable louse. This I like to be." The rehearsal hall was a big bare box, smelling faintly like a locker room, with walls the color of cold coffee and sprinkler pipes running overhead. The furniture was scanty; marked out on the floor in red, white and blue masking tape were general outlines of the sets for that week's show.
"Hi," Silvers said to a little knot of actors just inside the door. He started to hang up his coat and stopped. "We gotta cut down the cast on this show," he said in his sheet-metal voice; "there's not enough hangers." "Hello, Phil," said Nat Hiken, the producer.
Silvers took the script Hiken handed him, walked around in a big semicircle and got a drink of water at a cooler in the far end of the room. Then he sat down with the rest of the cast and production crew to read the script aloud and block out camera moves. The script was complete and the cast had a good time reading it, but it was not yet the one that would be filmed the following friday. That show existed in thin air somewhere between Silvers and Hiken.
The basic written version was only a groundwork from which they would take off like jazz musicians, cutting, shifting, embellishing, buffing, finding laughs in a sigh, a look, a drawn-out word as plaintive as a blue horn.
Silvers and Hiken are two of the smoothest craftsmen in their peculiar line of work --- and comedy is work, hard, exacting, repetitive, at times almost drudgery. Between this first reading and show time on friday, the cast would go over the script roughly 25 times. The astonishing thing is that they can bring so much laughter to it when they finally go before the cameras. But it's exciting, too, and because Silvers is a master comic there is magic and hilarity along with hard work.
As their first reading began, Hiken roughed out the action so that the actors would know what was going on. An outsider listening to their quiet, orderly voices would never know that this was the beginning of one of Bilko's madcap adventures, although often a line paid off in laughter from the cast. When it did, Silvers would chirp, "Funnee, Funnee."
Reading from the script, Paul Ford, who plays Colonel Hall, said, "Let's face it, Bilko, at your age a 20-mile hike may be too much.""Now," Hiken explained to Silvers, "in the next scene you're in the colonel's outer office and Joan is there." Joan is WAC Sergeant Hogan, the colonel's secretary --- in real life, Elisabeth Fraser.
"The colonel thinks I'm too old for the Army," Silvers (alias Bilko) read. "I'll show him who's too old. I'll go to the gym, get some exercise, play ball. That's what I need. "You go out," Hiken explained, "with a kind of a skip." Silvers didn't skip --- yet. But a few minutes later they reached the end of the script, and Hiken said: "Basically, that's it. Let's get it on its feet."
For one show, Sergeant Bilko and a group of recruits ride a painter's scaffold to a rooftop --- looking for a bookie
Before filming, the cast goes over each script up to 25 times. They stood up, arranged themselves on the sketchy sets and began to read again, walking it out, acting a little, grown men playing at a children's game of make-believe, gradually transforming it into consequence. In a free moment Silvers, very dead-pan, tried to teach Maurice Gosfield (alias Private Doberman) to do a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo dance step. Gosfield, a purehearted fall guy for both Bilko and Silvers, is so pudgy he cannot see his feet when he stands straight, and the dance wasn't going well. Three others got into the act; they looked like a chorus line of Seabees in a GI jungle show. Silvers chuckled.
In one corner Walter Cartier (Private Dillingham) and P. Jay Sidney (Private Palmer) bent their heads over a floating chess game that had been going on for weeks. Cartier is a middleweight fighter with more than 60 bouts to his credit and his presence in the cast illustrates Hiken's tendency to hire unexpected people. (It was Hiken who was responsible for casting middleweight Rocky Graziano as Martha Raye's boy friend, and the Silvers show includes former lightweight Maxie Shapiro as well as Jack Healy, Graziano's fight manager.) Hiken and Silvers have been known to bring people in off the streets for a bit of special casting. Tony Corrado, a manufacturer of steel cable, is also a regular member of Bilko's platoon whenever he can get away from his company's board of directors.
During a break in the rehearsal, Silvers walked around muttering to himself, "Imperceptibly. imperceptibly," a word assigned to him that he found troublesome. Hiken looked at him. "I think I'll cut that line. D'you mind?"
"It'll be a blessing," Silvers said happily. Like many people in show business, Silvers neglected to finish school, and language sometimes gives him trouble. He talks a kind of wacky and refreshing English, uninhibited by formalities. He once told a friend he was "indickted" to beautiful women and he is fond of referring to evil as "insiduous." One of his favorite expressions is "relax to it," a loony but wise piece of advice he never follows himself. Watching the actors as they walked out their scenes, Hiken said suddenly, "Phil, right here do your --- you know ---- the marching thing. It'll look more real."
"Don't get Army on me, huh, Nat?" Silvers pleaded. "We been gettin' along good without authenticity." Hiken grinned, "Well, you do it good." Pleased, Silvers snarled, "Huh--bout----face! Hi-yar-up!" and the platoon began to march smartly. At five o'clock the session broke up and Silvers sat down with Hiken and a photo directory of actors to consider auditions to the cast for a show two weeks away. "Let's see," Silvers began, "this guy's great." "Can he act, though?" Hiken asked. "Anything. Write this down," Silvers said to Hiken's secretary who waited nearby. "Hey, you know this fellow?" "Is that a face? Write this down." "I need some Uriah Heep sort of guys," said Hiken. "Here's one -- he's funny. Write this down." The phone rang, Silvers answered it. "We're alone here, cousin. Everybody's gone. Silvers left the building. You're welcome.
TUESDAY ... At three minutes to two, Silvers walked into the rehearsal hall. "Hi, Phil," Hiken said. "Don't grouse at me. I had three hours sleep." Hiken silently handed him a revised script and Silvers thumbed through it gloomily. "Whoooo. All those words." He walked across the room and encountered Herbie Faye, who plays Corporal Fender on the show and whom he has known since his vaudeville and burlesque days 20 years ago. "Hiya, Murphy," Faye said.
Silvers immediately executed a 180-degree turn, saying, "I'll go get him." He and Faye chuckled nostalgically. It was what is known as a "crossover," a burlesque stunt in which players rush in from opposite sides of the stage, deliver a fast, nonsensical gag and go off.
Mickey Freeman (Private Zimmerman) said to Allan Melvin, who plays Corporal Henshaw, one of Bilko's two side-kicks, "I'm planning a TV program for you all your own. Very big. It takes place in Kansas. In a wheatfield. And the wheat is nine feet high." He paused dramatically. "The first four programs they can't find you."
Melvin snapped his teeth at him. "Yeah? I eat my way out?" "All right," Hiken said, "Let's take it from the top." "El toppo." Silvers agreed. "Stand by. Time. In you come." "We're in." Silvers said. "Take it again will you? I want to get this line in. It's a funny one for you, you know? Maybe we need a short --- Can you give me some kind of a joke here? Just a little ---"
Silvers pondered a split second and came up with a story about a baseball game where the bases were loaded and there were three singles in a row but not a man scored. Reason: it was a girls' baseball game. He delivered two more in rapid succession before Hiken could stop him. They settled for the baseball joke.
Getting a haircut. Phil Silvers hasn't any favorite barber -- just any one who's near
Automat is a frequent coffee shop for Silvers --- though not as frequent as before he was easily recognizable
The actor's best girl is the television actress Evelyn Patrick, shown here meeting him in a small restaurant
The phone rang. The call was for Silvers. As he left the platoon on the set to answer it, somebody called, "It's the Chase National Bank, Phil. They need more dough." Silvers paced around at the end of the phone cord for two minutes and then said restlessly, "Honey, I got to get back to work. I got 50 parolees waiting for me."
They went to work on the scene where the colonel told Sergeant Bilko he might be too old to go on a long hike. "I'll show them who's old," Silvers said, bending over Elizabeth Fraser's desk. "I'll go to the gym, get exercise ---" "Phil," Hiken cut in, walking around, "right here -- you say -- uh -- 'I'll go on that 20-mile hike. That's just what I need.' " "Okay," Silvers said. He put out a hand and somebody put a pencil in it and he marked the extra line in his script. "Then do the skip-and-jump thing." Hiken reminded. After a while Hiken called one of his rare five-minute breaks and after sitting quietly on a chair for a few minutes, Silvers suddenly grabbed the nearest actor and yelled, "Charades!" Then he held two fingers in the air. "Two words!" the actor said. Silvers nodded waving his arms wildly. "You're acting it out!"
He nodded again. He held his two palms in front of his face and scanned them from side to side.
"Uh --- book!"
Silvers beamed. Then he grabbed a green plastic bowl and a spoon --- props for the show --- and held them above his head, banging them together.
"Dickens!" the actor cried, snapping his fingers. "Oliver Twist!"
"Ri - i - i - ght," Silvers purred, relaxing.
About six o'clock, Hiken told everybody to go home. Silvers walked to his hotel alone through the spring twilight, a distance of about a mile. He's a demon walker. As he crossed an intersection, a taxi made a left turn behind him, and the driver said, "Hiya, Sarge," almost in his ear.
The comedian turned, touched his gray Homburg in neat military salute, and grinned. ("There's one of two things you can do about fame," he once remarked astutely. "Go along with it a little bit and enjoy it a little bit, or resist it completely and be an unhappy man.")
WEDNESDAY ... Rehearsals started at ten in the morning as they do each Wednesday for the convenience of actors who have matinee performances elsewhere, like Paul Ford, who not only plays Bilko's sorely tried Colonel Hall but for two and a half years also appeared as a colonel in the Broadway hit The Teahouse of the August Moon. Silvers appeared on time; his pet peeve is people who are late for anything.
All morning he and the others went over the script, acting it out, polishing. At one o'clock Silvers went off with a CBS publicity man to make a personal appearance in a department store.
In the store's executive offices, Silvers was presented to a well-combed young pianist who was to accompany him. "All that hair," Silvers murmured. "How unsanitary. You know the introduction to Cavalleria Rusticate?" The man said no.
"Well, we open with that. You'll be able to do it; it's not hard. I'll hum it for you. Then we --- do you know Stravinsky's fire dance?" "Yes," said the musician. "Good. We do that next and then we do that aria from Tosca that goes ... Do you know Tosca?
The flabbergasted pianist shook his head and Silvers burst out laughing. It was all a joke. After leaving the store. Silvers and the CBS man stopped at Lindy's for lunch. While Silvers stood at the curb waiting for his companion to pay the cab fare, he heard the driver say, "Is that Sergeant Bilko?" "Yes." "Tell him to marry that blonde already." "She's supposed to catch me." Silvers called.
"I'm walking real slow." "That blonde" is, of course, WAC Sergeant Hogan --- Elisabeth Fraser --- the feminine interest in Bilko's life. There's a feminine interest in Silvers' own life, but it's not so predictable. His best girl right now is Evelyn Patrick, a television actress whom he met at a party, but his friends say he's always in love with at least one girl.
From 1945 to 1950 he was married to Jo Carroll Dennison, at that time a Hollywood starlet, but as Silvers says now, "We weren't ready for marriage, either of us. We didn't even know what marriage was." Their divorce was one of the most amicable on record; Silvers even stayed for a time with his ex-mother-in-law. Friends say Silvers would like to be married and have a home life but the process of getting there scares him. He is too fond of people, parties and bright lights.
At Lindy's, the comedian hailed a passing waiter, "Waiter, dear," he said, "Irish stew and a cream soda. Quickly. You know my rating." "Ah-ah," cautioned the CBS man. "Don't get cocky. Somewhere in one of those cafeterias back there ---" he gestured --- "there's a little, unknown comedian, just waiting for his chance."
The star takes a call at rehearsal. He likes to use telephones --- there are three of them in his apartment
On friday afternoon the show goes before the cameras. Here's Sergeant Bilko with his two closest henchmen, Cpls. Barbella (portrayed by Harvey Lembeck), left, and Henshaw (played by Allan Melvin)
Coming from a midweek rehearsal. Left to right, CBS publicist; Sid Garfield; comedian Silvers; Nat Hiken, who writes, directs and produces Phil Silvers Show
It was an old joke between them. "Lay off with that little guy," Silvers said. "He's making me nervous." Between mouthfuls of Irish stew, he made a disjointed speech about wishing just for a little while to get away from the public. In the middle of it a little girl about ten walked up and asked for his autograph. Silvers took the menu she handed him and asked patiently, "What's your name?" "Sally." Silvers looked at her in a kind of happy pain and gave her a straight, honest smile. She went away. The comedian looked at the CBS man and spread his hands. "Forget what I said."
Back in the rehearsal room, the noise of rock-and-roll musicians seeped through the walls from a quintet warming up for a recording session down the hall. "Musicians have bad habits," Silvers said, eyeing the light fixtures. "They wear brown shoes with tuxedos." Hiken began to bear down, taking the cast through the show, very businesslike, twice more that day. Finally he dismissed them and Silvers went out, whistling "Bill Bailey, won't you please come home ... "
THURSDAY ... At 9:00 A.M., Bilko's platoon mustered at the television studio on sixty-seventh Street off Third Avenue. For the first time the show was to rehearse on real sets in front of real cameras. The studio is a vast, drafty, air-conditioned sound stage with a 40-foot ceiling hung with ropes and pullies and batteries of lights. There are bleachers across one end where the audience sits the next day, and halfway up one wall is a split-level control booth occupied by cliff dwellers: the sound engineer, Dave Roth, associate director, and, during the actual show, camera director Al DeCaprio and Hiken.
The cast arrived promptly, spilling from a self-service elevator that gives Silvers the bends, he insists. The star wore a scarlet shirt, black suede shoes, red socks, charcoal slacks and a soft gray velours hat. Whenever he was not in a scene he sat down behind the cameras in a camp chair marked with Bilko's name, and chewed his fingernails. Sometimes Silvers talked with other members of the cast. "I'm a young sixty-two, am I not?" inquired Mickey Freeman, who plays Zimmerman and is actually a young thirty-five or thereabouts. "Nah, you couldn't even get insurance." "I'm insured," Silvers said seriously, "for $780,000." Everyone listened respectfully. "It's a unique policy," Silvers went on, knowing perfectly well he had them. "I have to get hit by a iceberg." His listeners let out a breath. "Of course, if it's a submerged iceberg, it's double indemnity."
Hiken walked over and asked Silvers if he could roller-skate, thinking ahead to a show for the future. "Why are we getting so physical all of a sudden?" Silvers asked. Hiken smiled. "Well, you don't want dialogue. What do you want?" "Pantomine. I guess I can roller-skate." "Okay," Hiken said and raised his voice. "One thirty!" "Lunge!" yelled a stagehand. "Lunge!" echoed a cameraman. The technicians streaked out to lunch.The actors departed for a nearby fishhouse on Third Avenue. Silvers and Hiken ate at a table by themselves. "I don't know why I'm so happy," Silvers said. "The shows a wreck. I had three hours' sleep last night, and a week from wednesday --- that benefit."
During lunch they discussed the benefit. When Silvers was finished eating he went off for a walk by himself. He got as far as the door and came back without a word to stuff his pockets full of bread and oyster crackers for the pigeons. Later he reported to the cast that pigeons dislike salt; they ate the bread much faster than the crackers. "But, Phil," somebody said, "there's no salt in oyster crackers." Silvers looked pained, dropped into his Bilko chair and begun biting his nails. After a while, for some reason known only to him he began to sing Come Back to Sorrento in Italian: "Guarda il mare com' e bello ---" "You don't know what it means, though," an Italian actor said. "Sure I do. 'Como' --- that's Perry Como, a singer. 'Bello' --- he should lose some weight." He stopped, stuck. Finally the day ended and people were bidding one another good night. Silvers sat on his camp chair. Having gone Latin, he went all out. "Arrivederci," he said solemnly.
FRIDAY ... It rained hard until midafternoon, and inside the windowless studio, where the show was actually to be filmed that day, people kept asking one another for bulletins from the outside. The cast and crew sloshed out to an early lunch and when they came back for dress rehearsal a damp handful of people were beginning to line up behind a wine-red velvet rope in the lobby, smelling of wet clothing. The dress rehearsal ran smoothly. Silvers had one scene where he had to come down the stairs leading to the upper floor of the barracks. Since the set in reality had no upper floor, he could look over the top of the wall while he was waiting for his cue. He began throwing nails, little chips of wood and whatever else he could find down on the heads of his platoon.
"Who has the best timing in television?" he asked, and like a well-trained chorus they shouted, "Phil Silvers!" More paper. When they tired of that game, Silvers scared them half to death by dropping a four-foot length of board among them with a loud crash. When he wasn't on camera Silvers sat down in his camp chair and nibbled his nails. "Look at Nat," he confided to Ed Montagne, the network supervisor. "He hasn't got any problems and he doesn't know what to do with himself. Hiken who had been wandering around aimlessly, wandered in Silvers' direction and the comedian said, "Whatsa matter, baby?" You forgot your tie? You got a cold? Whatsa matter?" Hiken sat down in a chair next to him, somehow giving the impression that he didn't intend to stay more than a second, and sighed, "I got three hours sleep last night." Thunderstruck, Silvers gave him a long, unclassifiable look. Then he smiled beautifully and cried, "I got two! What're you complaining about?" Hiken said nothing, just sat there with a clipboard in his lap, folding a piece of green paper into tiny triangles."I remember a thing from the burlesque," said Silvers suddenly, and delivered himself of a short, risqué poem, departing on the last line with a craftsman's timing to pick up his cue as Sergeant Bilko and enter the scene.
Silvers' talent for creating laughter hangs largely on timing --- knowing when to talk and when not to. His present tie-up with CBS traces back, in part, to his brilliant demonstration of this knack at the Radio-TV Correspondents annual shindig for Washington bigwigs in 1954. With the President, the Vice-President, Supreme Court Justices and the whole cabinet (except for John Dulles, who was in Europe) watching him, Silvers waited almost a full minute to start his routine, while tension grew. Then, surveying the crowd of dignitaries, he said mildly, "My goodness. Who's minding the store?" It was a smash beginning. A little later, when a phone rang unexpectedly, distracting the audience completely from Silvers, the comedian staged a sharp recovery by instantly walking to the wings, picking up an imaginary phone and saying, "Hello. What? Who?" Then, in an aside to the audience: "Long distance from some fellow named Dulles. Says he'll talk to anyone." The President (and everyone else) roared. In the audience was Hubbell Robinson Jr., CBS vice-president, laughing with all the rest -- and somewhere in the background, with a gleeful grin on his face, was Sergeant Ernest Bilko, waiting.
He was under contract 16 months before going on the air; his mother thought he was unemployed
NOW, AS PREPARATIONS for the friday filming neared the final stage, Hiken assembled his actors for 10 minutes to give them cast notes --- last-minute corrections and changes in their performances. A technician with a spray can went around dulling the finish on the company's dogtags so they wouldn't send blinding highlights into the camera lenses. Stagehands reassembled sets for the opening of the show, the actors dispersed to their dressing rooms, and the rain-wet audience unloaded in batches from the elevators and found seats in the bleachers.
Between scenes, the star watches from a camp chair as others rehearse -- meanwhile chewing his fingernails
Silvers with 1955 Emmy award. His show and its staff took six of these prizes (CBS Photo)
Bilko gives a big smile to his love interest in The Phil Silvers Show, and gets one back just as big and just as enigmatic. She's WAC Sergeant Hogan, the commanding officer's secretary -- in real life, actress Elisabeth Fraser
An announcer welcomed them and briefed them on what was coming and then said, "Ladies and gentlemen the star of our show --- Phil Silvers." Silvers came through the door and walked to the microphone. He thanked the people for coming in all the rain, pitched a few packs of cigarettes to the servicemen in the audience and pocketed one pack, saying, "This I need because I get very nervous."
Then he introduced Nat Hiken, much to the producer's discomfort. Hiken usually deploys himself to the top level of the control booth --- behind the audience and as near the ceiling as he can get --- to avoid such a possibility. Silvers tossed him a pack of cigarettes, saying, "Here's your salary." Hiken caught the cigarettes and managed to melt silently into the stagehands around him.With the aid of his property men, Silvers staged a 15-minute frolic, then dismissed them and said soberly, "Ladies and gentlemen, these are troubled times, but you can rest easy.
"Don't worry. This is your Army!" Facing the door, he whipped out his "Hi-yar-up!" and they came in, Bilko's bunch, a straggling, shuffling, gleeful string of ragpickers, most of them in fatigues, a few in summer uniforms, marching as if they all had two left feet. Watching them with delight and dismay, Silvers shook his head and said to the audience, "It doesn't seem possible, does it?" One by one, he introduced his playfellows, saying something affectionate and crazy about each of them. Midway through it he broke off, saying, "Yes, Dave?" On the loudspeaker came associate Dave Roth's voice: "Tell Doberman his laundry came back." Silvers looked down the line till his eyes fell on Maurice Gosfield's rotund shape. "You hear that, Dobie?" "They wouldn't accept it," the loudspeaker added.
At last they settled down to the real business at hand. DeCaprio's voice said on the loudspeaker, "Stand by." Roth made a loop in the air back of his head, indicating to the recording engineer to roll his tape. DeCaprio said, "Roll 'em," to the cameramen. The recording man said, "Rolling," meaning his tape was under way, and then after a second, added, "Speed," meaning he was ready to record. On the floor someone called, "Sticks!" and a techician with a hinged late marked with the name and important identification of the show said, "The Phil Silvers Show, number 34, scene A, take one," then cracked the two parts of the slate together and ducked out of camera range. DeCaprio said, "Stand by, Action!," and The Phil Silvers Show was under way. By now the tentative air evident earlier in the week had vanished; as the cast went through the action the show seemed polished and professional. Before the cameras the workings of the cast and crew always are very businesslike, for what they accomplish in 45 minutes would be the equivalent of three days' shooting in Hollywood and they are justifiably proud of the fact.
During brief intervals when the cameras were reloaded, the audio men played music on the loudspeakers, and Silvers and Harvey Lembeck (Corporal Rocco Barbella) did a fast and funny jitterbug routine which enchanted the audience. When Silvers was not on camera he sat down in the first row of the audience, panting a little, watching the other actors intently, "helping" them by moving his lips constantly with their lines. "Got a cigarette for your old Sarge?" he asked softly of a production assistant, and the man gave him one and lighted it.
Then Silvers was on again. When the scene came up where Bilko told WAC Sergeant Hogan he darned well would go on the 20-mile hike, Silvers got so exhuberant with his skip-and-jump, his garrison cap bumped a green-shaded light hanging at the end of a chord. Surprised, he turned to look at it and quickly ad-libbed, "What's that doing there?" Then he socked it with his fist like a fighter jabbing a punching bag, and skipped out, leaving it swinging. The scene had developed during the week into something a great deal different from the original conception --- and a great deal better. While Silvers is doing the show, it's difficult to know what really goes on in his head. In filming, there is non of the tension, the do-or-die drive, that's found in a live television broadcast. No external wave of excitement helps carry the actors along; they have to create it themselves. Sometimes Silvers lifts the show to a pitch by himself and the cast soars around him; other times it is the other way around. Somehow and in some way, without fail, they dredge up the spark they need.
WHEN IT WAS OVER, the audience swarmed down onto the floors like a football crowd about to tear down the goal posts and Silvers and company signed endless autograph books. Finally the last of them left and the cast settled down to the business of close-ups which must be spliced in later and reshooting a portion of one scene where a sound effect had failed to work. No audience sounds were needed.
By five o'clock they were finished. In his dressing room --- a routine cubicle like all the others with a hard leather couch and a stall shower --- Silvers became a civilian again and removed the pancake make-up. Hiken came in. "It went good today?" Hiken said. "Are you sure you can roller -skate?" "Enough," Silvers said. "Say, Nat, do me a favor, hunh? Think up a little gimlet for that benefit I'm in next week? I need some kind of finish for my act." Hiken, folding a candy-bar wrapper into inch squares, looked a little troubled and then said easily, "Okay. Sure. You going to the movies Sunday night?" "I might," Silvers said. "I don't know." "Maybe we'll go with you. Hush?" "Fine." "I'll talk to you." "All right. So long, Nat." "Good night." He went out. Silvers could hear the actors bidding each other good-by in the corridor. Now and then someone rapped on his door and yelled, "So long, Phil," or, "See you Monday."
THE STUDIO WAS QUIET by the time Silvers left. The skies were clearing and he walked to Park Avenue, then turned downtown toward the hotel he calls home, heading for dinner and a theater date with his best girl; a tall, faintly round-shouldered man in good clothes who might be a banker or a company president to the casual eye. On Saturday he could sleep late --- but he wouldn't. "You get in a routine," he explains. "You keep on waking up." Saturday is his one free day but he doesn't really "relax to it." He would walk a little in Central Park, read a lot (he reads about three books a week, mostly best sellers) and watch the fights or basketball game on television.
At night he was invited to dinner at a friend's house. Actorlike, he was planning a little sketch to do with his friend's children --- he adores kids, not so much for their cuteness as for their hoodlum candor; he knows where he stands with them.
Sunday he would have a combination breakfast-and-lunch at Lindy's --- alone --- then drive in a rented car to his mother's house in Brooklyn where he grew up, the youngest of eight children. Silvers was under contract to CBS for a year and a half before his program actually went on the air and all that time he kept saying, "Mom, I got a nice job in television." Mrs Silver (the original family name did not have the final "s") watched but saw nothing. One Sunday when Silvers was visiting her she opened a drawer where she kept some money tucked between the sheets and handed him a hundred-dollar-bill. "Here," she said, "you should eat while you're working in television." Silvers accepted it; there was no way he could explain to her that a company would pay him for work nobody could see. Today his personal paycheck is said to be $250,000 a year --- plus what he makes from guest appearances and Café dates.
He walked in front of a cab waiting at a red light and the driver said to his passenger, "See that fella? He's at the top now and boy, if anybody ever deserved it, it's him. Phil Silvers. I've watched him since he was a kid in the Palace. What a guy." Silvers had no way of hearing that, of course. He walked on in the rain-washed air, wrapped in his own dissonant thoughts: part ruffian, part gentleman; part man about town, part homebody; part introvert, part laugh maker.
Not an easy man to live with, not even for Phil Silvers. A wonderful, foolish, shy, ribald, sentimental, nervous, lovable man with a fathomless longing to have somebody somewhere take him seriously. Maybe someday he'll find out that a great many people have, all along.
Collier's for May 11, 1956
Coronet was a general interest digest published from October 13, 1936 to March 1971and ran for 299 issues. The magazine was owned by Esquire and published by David A. Smart from 1936 to 1961. A typical issue had a wide variety of articles and features, as well as a condensed book section. Poetry was featured, along with gift advice and star stories. The sister company Coronet Films was promoted in most issues as well. Articles on culture and the arts were mixed with adventure stories and social advice.
In April, 1956 the magazine published an article called, Phil Silvers: TV's Melancholy Madcap. This work was compiled by regular Coronet features writer, Charles Samuel. For the sake of archive material, I felt that this excellent piece of work should not be consigned to the dustbin, but be shared with everyone, Worldwide........ to enjoy and cherish.
PHIL SILVERS: TV's Melancholy Madcap
by Charles Samuel
Millions roar with laughter at this zany comic, but only close friends know the wistful man behind the horn-rimmed glasses
Phil Silvers, a born worrier, was the last person connected with his TV show, You'll Never Get Rich, to become convinced it would be a hit. Though he had filmed 21 of the Tuesday night CBS shows before the first was telecast, the bald comedy star feared that some last-minute disaster would ruin the official opening.
Only after the rave reviews were in did Phil concede that as Sergeant Bilko he had scored the sensation of his career. However, he then immediately clapped his hand to his head and groaned: "Now I'm really in trouble! From now on I'll never be able to go out on the streets on a Tuesday night. Why? Because it would murder my ego to find out how many people are walking around not watching my show."
"But, Phil, you won't be out," someone argued. "You'll be at home, watching it yourself."
Silvers refused to be consoled. "Even if I did stay at home, I would be driving myself crazy thinking about those vast multitudes on the streets who are ignoring You'll Never Get Rich."
Silvers, as most of our best comedians, has a bewildering habit of dreaming up imaginary dilemmas and woes for himself, particularly when everything looks brightest. Though fabulously paid, he can never forget how precarious a profession he is in, nor how easy it is to become over-confident in it.
Phil -- now 44 -- lives alone in a beautifully furnished apartment in the Hotel Delmonico, on Park Avenue. On the days when he has to rehearse for or shoot the film for his TV series, he gets up at either eight or ten A.M. and will keep going for from twelve to fifteen hours. He involves himself in every phase of TV production from the writing of the script to the final processing of the film.
In the evening, Phil will often go to his favorite Turkish baths for a couple of hours before going out. A passionate sports fan, he also attends every World Series, big fight, hockey game, horse race and football game his schedule permits.
At nights, he can usually be found at Toots Shor's or some other Broadway hangout. Among his close friends are Joe Dimaggio and Phil Rizzuto, Eddie Arcaro, the jockey, Leo (the Lip) Durocher, late of the Giants, Herman Hickman, the football coach, and sports writers Red Smith and Jimmy Cannon.
While Phil enjoys this kind of night life, he often feels so lonely in the morning that he will dash downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, feeling much happier with a group of people around him.
At other times he says, "I enjoy living alone because, paradoxically, I find myself congenial."
Silvers has the same confusing mixture of sentiments towards his competitors, America's other professional funny man.
For 20 years or so, Phil has been both friend and favorite comedian of Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis and at least two of the Marx Brothers.
Phil is a comedian of impeccable taste, a master of slapstick who uses his face and his high-pitched voice to maximum advantage. He treasures the praise of Benny and the others, but is puzzled by it, and says, "I really do not know why they think I'm funny."
The bespectacled comic often spends hours sending wires of congratulations or good wishes to these other performers. It is difficult to find anything in Phil's background to account for his benevolence towards all of the world. He was born in 1911, one of eight children of poor Russian immigrants. He grew up in Brownsville, that toughest section of Brooklyn, while Murder Inc., flourished there. "Those guys were our heroes," he says.
At thirteen, Phil joined the famous vaudeville act, Gus Edwards' School Days, as a boy singer. After that he worked with another well-known two-a-day turn, Morris and Campbell.
Unfortunately, as he attained voting age, vaudeville fell apart. Along with thousands of other performers, he was forced to play sleazy nightclubs, the borscht circuit, burlesque and anything else that paid coffee and doughnut money.
For five years, Phil was a comic with the Minsky strip tease shows -- and hated it. Yet, it was in burlesque that he learned the thousand and one routines, comic gimmicks and gags which he used later in Broadway musicals and in some of the episodes of his current TV show.Then Phil got the lead in a so-so Broadway musical called Yokel Boy, and was signed by M-G-M for $500 a week. (He had been getting $75 in burlesque.)
In smash Broadway musical Top Banana Phil clowned with scantily-clad Chorine"
That was in 1939, and the seven opulent years in Hollywood (sometimes he got $5,000 a week in nightclubs) Silvers today considers almost the unhappiest period of his life. "Between 1942 and 1947, I was in 23 feature pictures. In almost all of them I was John Payne's friend who rushed in on Betty Grable at the last minute yelling, 'Don't worry, Betty, I got the money!'"
In 1945, a few years before he quit the movies, Phil fell in love and married Jo Carroll Dennison, the 1942 Miss America. They were divorced five years later.
Back on Broadway, Silvers singlehandedly pumped enough zip and gaiety into the musical musical High Button Shoes to transform it into a smash hit. The author of the show's book, Stephen Longstreet, is said to have objected vociferously to the rewriting the star did. But when it turned out to be the big money-maker, Longstreet praised it. Silvers wired him: UNLESS YOU STOP MAKING SUCH STATEMENTS I WILL START PLAYING THE PART THE WAY YOU WROTE IT.
A couple of years ago, Phil performed the same sort of magic with Top Banana. Later, he also starred in the less successful movie version of the show. But those earnings promise to be dwarfed by what he will make in the next few seasons as star of You'll Never Get Rich.
Though Silvers apparently means it when he says he cannot ad lib, some of the lines that have occurred to him suddenly are regarded as classics of comic clutch-thinking. There was the night he acted as master of ceremonies at a show climaxing a social function President Eisenhower was attending. For days, Phil had fretted over the assignment. Walking out on the floor, he discovered that Ike was surrounded by practically all of the top men who run the country -- Vice President Nixon, the entire Cabinet, half the Senate and most of the Supreme Court Justices.
Silvers shook off his terror, looked straight at Ike, and asked, "Who's minding the store?"
Washington newspapermen say they seldom have heard the President laugh so long over anything.
The sort of unscheduled caper that convulses other professional funny men, Phil staged while he was living in the hotel that houses the Copacabana nightclub. At three one morning, unable to sleep, Phil remembered that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were starring in the show downstairs.
Putting on a bathrobe and slippers, he went out to the elevator and rode down to the club, where Dean and Jerry were in the noisiest part of their act. Shuffling to the middle of the floor, Phil held up his hand. Martin and Lewis stopped their antics, dumbfounded. Putting his finger to his lips in the dead silence, Phil said, "Fellers, could you keep down the noise a little? I'm trying to sleep." Then he slowly shuffled off. Martin and Lewis still consider this the funniest thing they ever saw a performer do.
Phil's friends worry over his failure to remarry. All agree that he is eager to find a wife and raise a family. He was deeply in love with Jo Carroll, and cannot figure out yet why they were divorced. Or, for that matter, why they were married in the first place.
"One trouble with our marriage was that I am a feller's feller," he says. "My wife wanted a normal home life. I want that too, of course. But to an actor, particularly if he is a comedian, the most relaxing and enjoyable part of the day comes when he sits around in the restaurants and cafes and nightclubs, talking about sports and swapping gags and stories and insults with the guys he likes best."
An old Broadwayite perhaps offers the best explanatiion of the soul searching and self-torment that Phil and his fellow comics subject themselves to.
"The chief business of a comedian is to be an underdog," he says, "a guy the man in the audience pities even while he laughs at him. So as a comic gets richer and more successful, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to inspire this pity in ordinary people. So what can these wealthy and world-famous funny men do to seem miserable? Nothing, except what they do. Which is to complicate their private lives or invent enough troubles for themselves to feel underprivileged and unloved. The unhappy truth is that the moment one of them looks, feels or is happy, he is practically out of business. So, professionally speaking, almost the worst thing you can wish for your favorite comedian is a lifetime of true happiness."
From the December 1958 issue of Escapade magazine.
THE AGE OF CHIVALRY BY PHIL SILVERS
Sage advice on getting along in a world of female Bilkos
I DON'T CARE what historians say, it's a woman's world, and if you want the truth. I think it's made up of female Bilkos.
Take the day a man is born. People say, "How's the mother?" When he gets married they say, "What a lovely bride," and when he dies they say, "How much did he leave her?" Is it any wonder men join the army?
Talk about having a racket. It takes a guy years to learn the art of conning people. But women? They're born with it. In the first place, a clever girl will always let you have her own way. Take this dating routine. You go to her apartment, she shows you her modern kitchen, fancy stove, mixer, blender and electric pans. Then she says, "Where are we going for dinner?"
And when she runs out of practical reasons for winding you around her finger, she calls it "sentiment." Try to figure this one out: a girl stands on her own two feet for twenty years or better -- but the minute she's married she has to be carried through a door.
Then there's the birthday bit. No matter what you get her, it's just what she wanted to take back and exchange for just what she wanted.
Oh, it's a dandy set-up they have. And the sad part is that, instead of fighting back, we keep deluding ourselves. Look at the married man. He goes through life telling his friends, "I'm the boss at home," Who is he kidding? His wife makes him feel like the head of the house, but I got news for him. He's only chairman of the entertainment committee. The bachelor is even a sadder case. He keeps bragging that girls always seem to be throwing themselves at him. He knows darn well they're taking very careful aim.
Women are born promoters. I tell you. Take the campaign they started years ago about females being the weaker sex. They want us to believe they can't lift a feather -- yet why is it when they put the top on a pickle jar, it takes a man twenty minutes to get it off?
I guess I could ignore most of these tactics if I thought that women were at least sincere in the romance department. Well, I hate to disillusion you fellas, but did you ever wonder why a girl closes her eyes when you kiss her? Simple, my boy. She's trying to remember your name.
Oh, and we can't forget the great feminine logic. They're supposed to be great budgeters, you know. But get a load of their version of economy. They can't understand how a man can spend money during the day when he doesn't play bridge or have his hair done. But their latest routine is one I'll never understand. The dolls spend months on starvation diets -- get the curves back where they belong -- then wear a gunny sack so you can't tell whether they're coming toward you or walking away.
Even the insurance companies are on the woman's side. They make statements like, "Women live longer than men," and write articles on "How to Keep Your Husband Alive." Sure they live longer! You know why? While they sit at home reading about our old age, we're busy providing for it.
I tell you, fellas, it's a woman's world and there's one thing to do. Learn to assert yourself a little. DEMAND a clean apron.
Foto-Rama was an American "ART" magazine that was published bi-monthly, by the Arena Publishing Corporation, of 225 Varick Street, New York.
Costing 35 cents, the publication entered the market as second class matter on March 9, 1953.....usually featuring articles on many of the top strippers and beautiful models of the world
Magazine credits were: Editor: Myron Fass, Associate Editor: Pat Kahn, Art Director: Harold Vincent, Production: Frances Rubin, Research: Mel Lenowitz
In January 1957, Foto-Rama ran an article that didn't show The Phil Silvers Show in the greatest of light.......for the sake of archive material, I felt that this piece of work should not be consigned to the scrapheap, but be shared with everyone, worldwide........
THIS AIN'T THE ARMY!
"If an army sergeant existed that went through just ten percent of the antics Phil Silvers goes through as Sergeant Bilko during one half-hour show, why that sergeant would have a court martial, lose his stripes and get his rear end chewed out from here to Alaska!" So states Ronald L. Lothrop of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, a GI who has seen service in two wars.
Horseplay and hi-jinx are funny, but they give an unsound idea of the army to some.
Is Phil Silvers show smearing the army?
These sentiments, of Ronald L. Lothrop, are typical of the average GI-in-the-know. The shows are funny, yes. They are accurate, no, no, a thousand stripes no!
Is this a serious kick? To the millions of former GI's who get a kick out of the show, no. To unknowing mothers, and their sons about to become GI's who are trying to draw some conclusions about the army by watching the show, yes!
Playing footsie with the MP's is a Bilko speciality. They'd jug him in the real army
The real discipline of army life comes as a surprise to those indoctrinated by Bilko
Already drill instructors and company commanders have begun to complain about a rash of "wise guys" who consider themselves salty enough to do what thay want without orders ---- merely because they took their "basic training" by watching "You'll Never Get Rich!", the Silvers show.
What kind of impression does Silvers leave with the knownots?
That the average army sarge is a card-carrying crook with a sometime heart of goldplate, and that it pays to become a shrewd wise guy in the service.
That a smart enough GI can get out of duty, date up officer's wives, make fools out of their officers, and perhaps get rich on other GI's gullibility, despite the title of the show.
FOTO-RAMA is in favor of humor, yes. But we're not in favor of seeing our armed forces made the goat of a situation comedy in order to make Phil Silvers and his producers rich.
The army of the United States defended this country so that people like Silvers could live in peace and entertain America. Now we think it's Phil Silvers turn to defend the honor of the Army of the United States by straightening out his show a bit. How about it, Phil?
"Some recruits think they're Sergeant Bilko"
Con-man Bilko is representative of everything that's not wanted in a GI; although the show's writers always try to end up putting him back in the clear he's a very bad GI
TV People was an American monthly magazine priced 25 cents. It was published by Non-Pareil Publishing Corporation, of 655 Madison Avenue, NY.
Magazine credits; Publisher: Martin Goodman, Businees Manager: Monroe Froehlich Jr., Editor: Bessie Little, Associate Editors: Marcia Borie and Barbara Henderson, Art Director: Mel Blum, Art Editor: Anthony Basile, Picture Editor: Dan Merrin
In June, 1956 the magazine published an article called, Bespectacled, Bewitching, Becareful. This work was compiled anonymously for the publication. For the sake of archive material, I felt that this cracking piece of work should not be consigned to the scrapheap, but be shared with everyone, Worldwide........ to enjoy and cherish.
BESPECTACLED, BEWITCHING, BE CAREFUL
Con-man Bilko is representative of everything that's not wanted in a GI; although the show's writers always try to end up putting him back in the clear he's a very bad GI
Attention all civilians . . . be on the lookout for Sgt. Ernie Bilko . . . proceed at your own risk . . . and don't under any circumstances buy Fort Knox from him . . . it isn't for sale . . .
CBS-TV's star of 'You'll Never Get Rich' has upset his Tuesday night opposition and the network boys are hysterical with happiness. These specs, by the way, are only a select sampling from Phil's enormous private stock of comic lenses
The man who came up fastest in TV's race for fame, Phil Silvers, veteran funnyman, has finally achieved the acclaim he deserves. Phil is proudly displaying the Tony award he received
Phil wouldn't let our camera boys leave until he'd taken a shot . . . he's an amateur shutterbug. The whole entertainment world salutes Phil --- he's truly a wonderful guy in a wonderful business
In his New York bachelor diggings, Phil, out of uniform, relaxes and digs into his collection of books . . . we peeked and can honestly report there's not a joke book in his entire, well-stocked library
Guess I need a shave...........I have to look prosperous if I'm going to settle this big deal........I'm meeting some guy to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge! (He's only kidding, Mayor Wagner. Honest!!)
TV Stage was an American bi-monthly magazine priced 25 cents. It was published by Sterling Group, Inc of 441 Lexington Avenue New York..
Magazine credits; Publisher: Morris S. Latzen, Editor: Richard Heller, Associate Editor: Ruth Manoff, Music Editor: Dotty Mack, Hollywood Editor: Georgia Fletcher, Mail Editor: Nancy Wilson, Art Director: Bernie Gordon, Assistant Art Director: Gerry Repp, Art Associate: Vincent Mandracchia, Production Director: Alex Kole
In April, 1956 the magazine published an article called, Phil Silvers his Hilarious Story. This work was compiled by regular TV Stage features writer, Robert Jay. For the sake of archive material, I felt that this excellent piece of work should not be consigned to the dustbin, but be shared with everyone, Worldwide........ to enjoy and cherish
A Good Soldier Gives - to Bilko by ROBERT JAY.
As a sergeant with a heart of goldbrick, Phil Silvers has laughed his way to top TV stardom with this year's funniest new comedy.
Phil holds his favorite sign. Harvey Lembeck points to the sign as Allan Melvin watches
As salute to Phil, show was changed from You'll Never Get Rich to Phil Silvers Show
Incredible as it may seem to those of you who watch Phil Silvers' hilarious show about the insane goings-on of Sergeant Bilko and his wacky platoon, the series, according to Phil himself, has the full approval of Washington authorities.
Even more incredible is the fact that despite the show's subject, the adventures of Bilko, a man dedicated to the ideal that the army is his private oyster, Phil also says that Washington authorities feel the show will help the recruiting program!
Phil's show is filmed before a live audience. Here's the Sarge as he prepares to warm up audience
And on second thought Washington is right. If every young man and young lady who watched The Phil Silvers Show, believed that being a soldier or WAC would be so much fun, there would be waiting lines at every Army recruit depot in the country. And once in the Army, every recruit with a sense of humor would head straight for Sgt. Bilko's platoon, for in addition to Silvers himself, other funmakers on his squad include Harvey Lembeck, who plays Corporal Rocco Barbella (that's Rocky Graziano's real name - he was tentatively listed to play the role, but his other TV commitments kept him from sharing the fun), Allan Melvin, who plays Corporal Henshaw, and a batch of ex-prizefighters who literally make Phil's squad one of the fightingest that ever existed inside or outside the Army. The ex-fighters who appear regularly are Walter Cartier, once a middleweight, Lou Nova, an ex-heavyweight, Maxie Shapiro, a ranking lightweight in his fighting days and Mike O'Dowd, a heavyweight who was once Rocky Graziano's favorite sparring partner.
Phil's first big break came when he was fourteen. With a group of older youngsters, he was hijinking on the sand, singing and doing imitations of the great vaudeville stars. The late starmaker, Gus Edwards, who first brought to fame such performers as Groucho Marx, Eddie Cantor, Walter Winchell, George Jessel, Ray Bolger and others, heard Phil's fine alto voice and asked the boy to drop in at his office. Phil was soon earning forty dollars a week as part of Edwards' troupe of boy singers and he played the mecca of all vaudeville stars, the old Palace Theatre in New York. Phil toured with Edwards and then went back to school, but he soon convinced his parents that show business was the place for him. By this time, his alto voice had departed for parts unknown, so Phil joined a vaudeville team, playing the part of a brat at the nice salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a week.
When he outgrew this role, Phil and burlesque discovered each other. It was here that he developed his magnificent gifts as a clown, complete with baggy pants, putty nose, trick shoes and breakaway clothes.
1940 proved the turning point for Phil's career. He scored a hit as the star of the Broadway musical called Yokel Boy and was signed to a Hollywood contract. Hollywood failed to make use of his great talents, and as Phil says, "they always cast me as some character named Blinky." Of course that wasn't quite true. Some of the movies Phil starred in included Cover Girl, Coney Island, My Gal Sal, and Something for the Boys.
Following the war, Phil reached fullfledged stardom as the comic kingpin of an uproarious Broadway musical called High Button Shoes. Then came his hilarious hit, Top Banana, in which he starred both on Broadway and in the movies.
But Phil's greatest hit to date has proven to be his own show in which he portrays Sgt. Bilko. Bilko is probably the greatest goldbricking promoter any army in the world has ever seen. His life consists of making life for himself a bed of roses liberally strewn with good old U.S. legal tender, dollar bills. To do this, Bilko leads a life that the world's greatest jugglers must envy, because the smiling sergeant keeps his camp, mythical Fort Baxter, Roseville, Kansas, his Colonel (Paul Ford) and his squad in a constant state of unbalance. Bilko, an army veteran of twelve years, is in charge of B Company's third platoon, which runs the post motor pool. His private office has a sign, "Enter only on official business" and this busines includes other non-coms from the post who are always making tracks to see Bilko so that they can get in on his latest deals. They offer him money, delicacies and other gifts as inducements. With nonchalance and feigned indifference, Bilko receives them. In the end, they win him over, usually to their regret.
It's Bilko's activities with his own platoon that causes much of the hilarity. His office is paved with slogans, signs and contests, all of which insure the sergeant of living longer and making life happier -- for himself. For instance, one sign says "A good soldier gives." Bilko's soldiers sure do give -- to Bilko. At every opportunity, the sergeant reminds his men that he is always working for their morale, that his goal is to make his platoon the happiest on the post. But in his next breath he'll sigh wistfully that he loves his boys the most on pay day.
When someone inquires about whether Bilko, is around or not, the answer is, "He can't be. I still have my money." In Bilko's hands, a deck of cards becomes a guided missile. The amiable sarge's search for a fast buck usually manages to break every regulation and man in sight. He runs raffles, picnics, basketball pools, benefits (they benefit only Bilko), bed-making contests, dances (with cover-charges, of course) and sells stationary, souvenirs, candy bars and playing cards. As for private transportation, he'll rent his own car at ten cents a mile or at weekly rates.
Nat Hiken, the man who created this gilt-edged goldbrick, also produces the show. He's written for such other clowns as Milton Berle, Martha Raye, Jack Carson, Fred Allen and others, but about Phil he says that no comedian could possibly be better. Unlike other comedy writers, Hiken states that it is Silvers who makes his lines funny. As an example, Nat points out that a phrase like "Good boy" is nothing, but that when Phil uses it as Bilko, with his over-sincere, squint-eyed look to give someone a phoney compliment, the line becomes hilarious.
Perhaps one of the funniest of all the Silvers shows is the one he has scheduled for February which tells the story of how Bilko discovers that his great-great-granduncle was a major in George Washington's army. This so fills Bilko with pride, that he vows to stop his goldbricking ways. But in a flashback to the days of Valley Forge, the audience discovers that Major Joshua Bilko (played by Phil of course) is an even bigger goldbrick than his latter-day counterpart. He's the flashiest dresser in Washington's army, he's just made a few dollars by running a turkey raffle, and he's even gone so far as to sell all the seats in the boats about to cross the Delaware. This leads to hilarious complications because when General Washington is about to climb aboard for his famous river crossing, Bilko's great-great-granduncle has to say to Washington "I'm sorry, General, but it looks very much as if you'll have to stand!"
And Washington is about the only one that ever does stand when The Phil Silvers Show is on -- everyone else is usually rolling in the aisles of their own living rooms and dens. END
Vulcan was a late 1980s magazine that focused on classic film and television articles. The publication was published and edited, four times a year, by Mr Chris Anglos of Eburne Road, London. John Anglos was the man behind the design and graphics of this quarterly read. The cost was £10 per a years subscription or £2.50 per issue (including postage and packing).
In the spring of 1988, John and Chris, accompanied by Viacom's Gloria .D Rella, composed a superb article about the Phil Silvers Show simply called, Sgt. Bilko. I felt the need to scan this fantastic work for future generations........to enjoy. Thanks John and Chris, your superlative work lives on.......
by Chris Anglos & John Anglos